Thursday, January 05, 2006

Can Anyone Take the Crown Away?

Disney lost the animation crown and handed it over to Pixar several years ago. Now that Emeryville has turned into the new Magic Kingdom, will anyone ever challenge them for the throne? The easy answer to that is yes. However, it could be quite a while before anyone is capable.

DreamWorks Animation, although turning out promising animated films, isn’t in a position to overtake Pixar. The company as a whole is too focused on quantity over quality, or at least it is perceived that way. While it is conceivable that DWA will occasionally turn out another Shrek-like-moneymaker, I seriously doubt they will be able to string together enough hits to do much damage.

The next logical contender is Disney. After all, they ruled the roost for such a long time, but thanks to a number of bad decisions, have found themselves behind the eight ball. Can they recover? "Signs point to yes." Chicken Little was a decent start, and although it wasn’t a masterpiece, it is a step in the right direction. Their line up of movies look very promising, but unless Iger proves to be a magician, I think they have too many clowns in management to turn things around quickly. They need several more years and a few bonafide hits to be much of a threat.

Blue Sky lacks Pixar’s attention-to-story-detail and DreamWorks ability to push out quantity. Like DWA, I can see them making the occasional hit, but not stringing more than 1 of those together in a row. Don’t get me wrong. They will have good movies, but nothing that blows anyone away time after time.

Sony Pictures Animation is an unproven quantity. I think they have a lot of going for them and could be the dark horse. However, they need to get that first movie out of the gate before we can say too much.

I think the biggest threat to Pixar is Pixar. What if Steve Jobs decides to sell Pixar to someone who doesn’t allow the creatives to be creative? Maybe that is a remote possibility. What isn’t very remote is that sooner or later they are going to have a mediocre film or even a dud. It may not be for several more releases, but it will happen. As soon as it does, Pixar will have lost its mojo. That special indescribable something that makes them what they are. They will probably bounce back quickly, but they will be perceived as vulnerable. In a world of several quality animation producers, a single trip up could be just enough to make that crown fall right off their head.

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